JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Sam Lucas, 77, and his wife, Linda “Moaneti,” 76, both died on their property trying to escape the encroaching flames of the Lower North Fork Fire.
The Lucases were widely known at Red Rocks Fellowship in Littleton and widely loved.
Sam was a Sunday school teacher and Moaneti was a gregarious greeter of anyone who stepped inside the doors.
Their friends say they can’t understand why they didn’t make it out of their home because they were beyond prepared.
“Monday is when it happened and I didn’t get my call that night,” says Bonnie Heye, 79, of Lakewood.
Heye is one of a list of people, many shut-ins, who Moaneti called every night to make sure they were okay.
For seven years, Heye got a nightly phone call from Moaneti.
“When I started having health problems, she started calling me every evening…I looked forward to those calls. Now, I’m not going to have them,” she says.
“And they were just here Sunday,” says an emotional Helen Light, about the Lucases. They had brought her an apple pie.
Light, who’s homebound, also got those calls.
“My husband passed away 5 years ago. Ever since then, she called every night,” she says.
So they knew something was wrong when Moaneti didn’t call Monday, or again on Tuesday.
“She didn’t call. And that’s when we started getting really nervous,” says Light.
Both ladies had met Moaneti and her husband of 50 years, Sam, at Red Rocks Fellowship at 11195 W. Belleview Ave.
“You never met a more dedicated, committed, loyal, faithful, delightful people,” says the church’s pastor Jack McCollough.
Their friends of 17 years at the church say they can’t understand how the couple didn’t escape the flames.
“They were ready to go. They had their truck backed up. It was loaded. I think they were just getting whatever last-minute items they needed to take,” says McCollough. He says the couple kept in touch with him through the ordeal.
McCollough says the Lucases had let the church use their mountain home for retreats.
A home, he says, was built to survive a fire.
“It had concrete shingles on the roof. He had a fire suppression system. He was an engineer. He was prepared. They had water tanks for water, a phone system, a generator. Anything you can imagine,” he says.
“I tell you I sure am going to miss those two people. So are a lot of other shut-ins,” says Heye.
“I’m just sad the Lord needs more angels. So he took them. She did what he put her here for. And that was to see after everybody,” says Light.
Both ladies say it’s hard to accept they won’t hear from their friend on the other end of their phones anymore.
“It’s going to be okay. I’ll see her again. She won’t have to make a telephone call,” says Light.
Moaneti was also famous for her pet chickens she sometimes brought to the church for kids to see.
The couple also had a dog named Shadow–all believed to have died in the fire.
A memorial is set for the couple Friday at 1 p.m. at Southern Gables Church at 4001 S. Wadsworth in Littleton.